Lobbying Stalls Buhari’s Assent to Environmental Management Bill

A bill seeking to regulate and control all aspects of environmental practice in Nigeria is yet to receive the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari due to backstage opposition by some environmental managers who want it killed.

The bill which seeks to establish a body known as Institute of Environmental Practitioners of Nigeria was even strongly opposed by some individuals and groups during its public hearing at the National Assembly.

The delay by President Buhari in giving his assent to the bill is a source of worry to the Nigeria Environmental Society (NES). President of the society, Prof. Lawrence Ezemonye, is regretting that the Institute of Environmental Practitioners Management Bill, sponsored by the society, was yet to receive the president’s assent.

Ezemonye who is also the Vice Chancellor of Igbinedion University in Benin City, the Edo State capital, noted that in spite of the various initiatives to protect and manage the environment at all levels with the support of various professional in the field of environmental practice not much success has been recorded principally because there is no clear procedure and standard for certification of expertise amongst practitioners.

While pointing out that the bill will help to ensure that the Nigerian environment was adequately protected, in line with global best practices, he added that it will further give room for experts and competent hands to manage the country’s environment.

However, a memorandum by the Environmental Management Association of Nigeria (EMAN) for the abortion of the bill claimed that passing the bill into law will be a breach to Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution.

According to the memorandum, the bill was first presented to the Senate as a bill to establish the Chartered Institute of Environmental Practitioners of Nigeria but was discontinued after it was observed that the provision of the bill if passed into law will be a breach of Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

EMAN also noted that the same bill was represented in the House of Representatives as an Act to provide for the establishment of the Institute of Environmental Practitioners of Nigeria and other Related matters (HB.13.02.450) and was discontinued for same reason.

President of EMAN, Dr Emmanuel Ating, claimed that the bill came out in 2001 produced and sponsored by Shell and that they wrote to Shell in 2005 explaining their disagreement that it cannot come to Nigeria and give laws to regulate its practice.

He said in the Legislative period of 2015-2019, the same bill was represented with the same name, as a bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the Institute of Environmental Practitioners of Nigeria and other related matters, 2017.

While Ating said the provisions of the bill clearly showed that the promoters did not know basic minimum requirement for the establishment of a professional body, the sponsor, according to the memorandum, did not mention the specific academic programme or discipline approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC) that he wishes to professionlise or regulate its practice through the bill.

Ating then observed that Section 5C (i-iv) of the draft bill stipulates more than one academic programme or discipline as an acceptable qualification for membership of the institute and that it is a breach of the 1999 constitution.

In the mean time, the National Coordinator of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), Salisu Dahiru, at a lecture in Benin City on Tuesday said that the country ranks the highest with deforestation rate in the world.

Dahiru who was delivering a lecture, entitled Managing Land Degradation in Nigeria: the Challenges, Action and Remediation, at the 10th Environmental Outreach Magazine public lecture and environmental awards said, ‘’24 billion tons of fertile soil are lost every year globally. Also, 7.3 million of hectares of forest are lost yearly globally.

While identifying population pressure, deforestation, bush burning, overgrazing, agricultural depletion of soil nutrients through poor farming, inappropriate irrigation and indiscriminate mining as some the causes of land degradation in the country, he added, ‘’Nigeria is said to be one of the countries with the highest deforestation rate in the world with about 450,000 to 600,000 hectares of forest lost annually.’’

Dahiru said NEWMAP has succeeded in reclaiming some land lost to degradation, and that inconsistency in policies, inadequate budgetary and unhealthy rivalry between environmental agencies adversely affected management of degradation and deforestation in the country, pointing out that addressing the challenge required political will in terms of funding, policy execution and stakeholder cooperation.

The News Agency of Nigeria however, reports that Media Trust reporter, Mrs Chidima Okeke, won the 2019 Enviromental Outreach Magazine Media Excellence Award. She was recognised for her stewardship, commitment and leadership in environmental issues in her reportage.

37 others, including Frankland Briyai, the Cross River Resident Electoral Commisioner, and Ezemonye received leadership awards.

Responding on behalf of the awardees, Briyai who said that the award would spur them to do more in ensuring that the environment was protected and not degraded by human activities, added, ‘’as REC in Cross River, I have ensured that grasses are planted and that drainages are built in all INEC offices in the state to check erosion.’’

Publisher of the magazine, Noble Akenge, while presenting the awards said the award was in recognition of the awardees’ contributions towards improving the environment and that the public lecture was designed to bring together stakeholders in environment toward finding lasting solution to the environmental challenges in Nigeria.

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